Pyramiding: getting bees to move up
I have a few questions about my bee colony. The hive swarmed twice this year and has still grown to a good size colony, which means there was not a lot of space within the hive. We placed a second level on top a month ago but only a handful of bees walk over it. They have not built anything on it so far or moved up at all. I was wondering how to persuade them to move up and why they haven’t yet.
It is a mystery to me why some colonies expand upward easily and some are resistant. Still, I find it easy to cox them up by pyramiding the colony. This year I started three new packages in late April. As of now, mid-June, they are have all expanded into three deeps.
You can pyramid your single brood box into two like this:
- Prepare a new brood box in whatever fashion you like, using drawn comb, foundation, or foundationless frames with comb guides.
- Open your hive and pull out the middle frames of brood. How many you pull depends on many contain brood. If six or more have brood, take the middle three. If only four or five have brood, take the middle two. The point is you want to leave some brood in the bottom box. For this example, let’s say you take three.
- Take three empty frames from the middle of your new box and replace these with the three frames of brood.
- Take the three empty frames and put them in the lower box. What you’ve done then is just switch three frames of brood for three empty frames.
- Now, in the lower box, alternate a frame of brood with a new frame. For example: honey-honey-brood-new-brood-new-brood-new-honey-honey.
- In the new box, put all the brood in the center. For example: new-new-new-new-brood-brood-brood-new-new-new.
- Set the new box on top of the original one and you’re done.
- In the bottom box the brood now extends across a width of five frames (brood-new-brood-new-brood) and in the top box it extends across a width of three frames (brood-brood-brood). This gives you a pyramid-shaped brood nest.
- If you do this early enough you can usually prevent swarming because pyramiding opens the brood nest and breaks honey barriers. But you can also do it after swarming if your colony is rapidly expanding.
- If you want to go to a third brood box, just wait until you have sufficient frames of brood in the second box and do the same thing again.